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Socializing your dog is very important and you must keep in mind that the period of socialization is from birth to 20 weeks old. During this period you must expose your dog to lots of new places, new people, little kids and other dogs so that you have a well-socialized dog that you can enjoy for the rest of its life.
And I’m going to say that this is a topic that is very near and dear to my own heart. We have a rescue dog, Frisbee, who has fear aggression. You can search the blog tab and read his whole story…it’s a doozy.
As we started to experience the fear aggression and some bite situations and after going back to the rescue over and over again for more information we were FINALLY told his story.
You see, Frisbee and his brother and sister were turned over to animal control as young pups. I would guess they got very little attention and no real socialization. At about a couple months old, a rescue organization tried to pull them from animal control. It turns out Frisbee and one of his siblings had parvo. So, not only did he not get to leave, but now he was quarantined.
I believe for the first 3 to 4 months of his life, Frisbee had little to no socialization. And, we didn’t know this.
Even after he was taken from Animal Control, I am also guessing his foster mom didn’t do much to socialize him and mostly did nothing.
So, we got him at 6 months old and immediately my husband took him everywhere. Frisbee seemed to enjoy his daily adventures but what we didn’t realize is he was also very stressed out and struggling to process all of the noise, smells and people touching him.
About 18 months later, he snapped…literally he snapped. A little girl at Home Depot tried to hug him and he went at her. He didn’t bite luckily but that was our first warning sign that something was wrong.
If you want to read more about Frisbee, his journey and where he is today, look for those blog posts further back (it’s a series of 8).
Now you know why this topic is so important to me. If I can help just one person avoid the nightmare we’ve been through, not to mention what Frisbee goes through, I would be very happy.
So let’ get to it and discuss some of methods of socialization.
Take Your Dog to New Places- You can start by taking your puppy to three different places every week. Exposing your dog to different environments is very important. The dog that never gets out of its own home or backyard is going to be a fearful dog somewhere between 12 and 24 months old. When I talk about taking your dog to different environments I mean go stand in front of the grocery store as if you are waiting for somebody.
You can do the same thing at any strip center that has retail stores. This gives your dog an opportunity to experience all kinds of sensations including new sites, sounds, and smells.
The park is another excellent place to take your new puppy but keep in mind I’m talking about a park, not a dog park. Make sure your dog is ALWAYS on a leash, even and especially if other dogs are not.
Take Your Dogs Around A Lot Of People- Exposing your dog to a lot of new people is very important. Dogs need that exposure to keep them from being fearful of new people in the future. You can combine this exercise with taking your dog to new places. As you’re standing in front of that grocery store there are going to be people who can’t resist a cute little puppy and want to know if they can pet your dog. Your response should be absolutely. This exercise will teach a dog not to be afraid of people and how meeting new people can be a fun experience.
Exposing Your Dog To Kids- Exposing your dog to children is very important. A dog perceives a child as a different creature than an adult and we want to teach them that kids are okay.
Again you can combine this exercise with taking your puppy to different locations. Remember those people that wanted to take a couple of minutes to pet your dog? Well some of them will have children as well. So you can have the child offer your puppy a treat. It won’t be long before your puppy is looking for kids all the time because they always have something good.
Take You Dog Around Other Dogs- Exposing your puppy to other dogs is very important if you want to have a dog in the future that is sociable with dogs. With this exercise I like to wait until the pup has had its third round of parvo shots before I introduce them to other dogs.
You want to make sure that the dogs you expose your puppy to are very puppy friendly. It’s also a must to make sure the dogs are current on all their vaccinations including the parvovirus. Without this socialization to other dogs when your dog is young you may end up with a dog that can’t be around other dogs.
Take Your Dog To The Vets Office For A Visit- Another great place to take your dog for socialization is your vet’s office. It doesn’t have to be for treatment it can simply be for a visit. I can’t imagine any vets office that would mind you stopping by to say hello to the ladies at the front desk and getting a treat for your puppy. It will teach the puppy that coming to the vets office is a fun place to go and introduce them to other dogs and lots of new smells. Not to mention the dog loving people that will want to pet your dog.
If you’ll follow these few simple steps you’ll find that you’ll have a nicely socialized dog that you will be able to enjoy for the rest of its life. If you don’t do these things you’ll probably be calling a trainer when your dog is between 12 and 24 months old because your dog is fearful or has bitten somebody.
Let me add with all of these socialization activities you need to make 100% sure that you are completely focused on your dog and the environment. That means, no cell phones, no chit-chatting, no distractions at all.
And one more thing…make sure your dog is secured on a leash every time you have them out and about for their own safety.
Remember, you are basically training your dog and teaching them. That requires you to be engaged and to be fully paying attention. I can’t stress this enough.
And if you have a dog who is already older than the 20 month ideal socialization period and you feel your dog needs more socialization I would suggest you talk to a trainer. They can help with a plan to socialize your dog and desensitize them to things they may already have been exposed to.